How Dubai and Abu Dhabi see the World Cup

How Dubai and Abu Dhabi see the World Cup

International sports

With the euro finished, attention outside the UK is on the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The focus in Britain rightly remains on racist abuse directed at black members of the English football team and the extent to which the Prime Minister and Home Secretary contribute to enabling a culture in which such abuse can flourish.

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In the Gulf, lucrative rights to World Cup packages are now being awarded. In Kuwait, ITL World has been appointed sales agent. The CEO of the company, Siddeek Ahmed, could hardly contain his joy in being able to offer “fans a unique opportunity to buy hospitality packages including tickets” for the World Cup. In addition to tickets for the games, the packages include flights, accommodation, transportation and “entertainment” programs. According to Arabian Business, bids for the main venue, the 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium, will cost between $ 14,350 and $ 74,200. That allows you to buy all 10 matches that are held there, including the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final. If you’re not short on cash, you can pick up a 40-seat suite at the stadium for just $ 2.6 million.

In Dubai, Expat Sport Tourism DMCC won the rights, with its website urging football fans to be a part of history to see the first World Cup held in the Arab world. “From the very top in high-end corporate experiences to individual hospitality solutions for soccer fans, we can cater to anyone who wants to be part of the 2022 FIFA World Cup,” the firm said.

Not everyone is happy
With an estimated 1.5 million fans heading to Qatar next year, Dubai, with its well-established tourism and entertainment sectors, sees itself as an ideal location to cash in on the World Cup bonanza. However, others in the UAE are less welcoming.

Mohammed al-Hammadi is the president of the Emirates Association of Journalists and editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Alroeya, based in Abu Dhabi. Among the core values ​​listed on the newspaper’s website are “applying best practices in accordance with the codes of journalism” and “being an objective and reliable information tool.”

Hammadi is a strong advocate of normalization. He spoke at a webinar in October 2020, after the UAE and Bahrain announced their plan to normalize relations with Israel. The event was organized by a pro-Israel think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). Hammadi said he believed both in peace and in promoting Palestinian rights, but people like him who “speak for peace are stigmatized … and find themselves under attack.” He added that the word normalize “has a very negative connotation in our region.”

In June, he provoked the ire of African journalists with a clumsy attempt to get them to join in a coordinated media attack on the World Cup in Qatar. They adopted a resolution denouncing efforts to “use Africa and its institutions as political football to settle scores in a political dispute.” The statement read:

“As journalists in the East African region struggle to preserve their independence and freedom from dishonest commercial and governmental interests that threaten the integrity of journalists, an outside actor is behind attempts to manipulate, mislead and involve journalists. on an issue completely beyond the reach and powers of journalists and their unions.

In the same way that journalists and their unions in East Africa are calling, confronting and protesting against governments for their interference in the work of journalists and the restriction of their freedoms, all foreign powers that have a negative and false agenda must be condemned and publicly. questioned as a matter of principle and coherence.

Twelve days later, the Emirates Leaks website, citing what he called “reliable sources,” alleged that Hammadi had tried to pressure the heads of the Norwegian and Finnish journalists’ unions. According to the site, he wanted them to influence journalists’ unions in Asia and Africa to “coordinate attacks against Qatar and tarnish its image before hosting the World Cup.”

His efforts prompted a written question on June 23 in the European Parliament from Fulvio Martusciello. The Italian MEP accused the director of the Emirates Journalists Association of leading a smear campaign against Qatar: “Al Hammadi called on the Finnish and Norwegian Federations of Journalists to exert influence over the journalists’ unions that he supports financially to participate. in the Abu Dhabi campaign and offending Qatar. He also tried to offer them financial bribes and expensive gifts in exchange for achieving the incendiary targets of Abu Dhabi.

So while Dubai can barely contain its enthusiasm for the World Cup, Abu Dhabi seems ready to continue its campaign against Qatar. Imagine for a moment that the United Arab Emirates were a soccer team and their two biggest stars had separate agendas and played only for themselves. That’s not a winning formula and it’s something a good coach, like England’s Gareth Southgate, would quickly figure out.

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